Hold on to your monocles, everybody: Reality shows occasionally bend the truth. OK, maybe you already knew that. But The Bachelor breaks the truth in half and spits on the pieces. Yes, it turns out that America's favorite saga about finding love via an elaborate game show that's primarily designed to emotionally manipulate and humiliate the players is not entirely trustworthy. Let us count the ways ...
Episodes of The Bachelor double as fashion shows, because there's no better way to set realistic expectations for a potential marriage than constantly dressing like you're on your way to a royal ball. But while the show does give dresses to the two finalists once they reach the last episode, everything else is up to the contestants to get own their own. Every single woman has to bring enough of her own clothing to stay stylish yet comfortable for up to three months in every conceivable situation -- fancy dinners, tropical islands, exotic winter getaways, hikes, pool parties, sitting on planes for six hours. They're even given a lengthy list of suggested items to pack, plus a friendly reminder that you're only allowed two suitcases.
Since the average woman does not attend five cocktail parties and two island getaways in different hemispheres every week, this necessitates a lot of shopping to rapidly expand one's wardrobe. Some women manage to scrape a wardrobe together by borrowing from friends and family, but most have to buy. One woman spent six grand for her appearance on The Bachelor, then got it down to mere a $2,000 for Bachelor in Paradise. Another contestant admitted to dropping $8,000, and there are rumors that some have spent as much as $30,000.
If you're wondering how these women can afford to spend so much on clothes, the answer is that they often can't. Some cash out their 401(k)s, others pile up credit card debt, and one woman remortgaged her house. Now imagine buying and packing thousands of dollars' worth of clothes ... and then being the first person sent home. That's the real reason they're crying in those post-episode interviews.
Let's pretend for a moment that you haven't secretly watched several seasons of the Bachelor and explain the hometown dates. Cliff or Artie or whoever the generic male placeholder is that season visits the prospective women's families in their hometowns. At each location, they have a date at the woman's parents' house.
Or at least, a spacious Airbnb dressed up to look like the parents' house.
It makes sense if you think about it. What are the odds of every single contestant having parents who live in an immaculately kept palatial home with plenty of room for a camera crew, regardless of their profession? The hometown houses are usually rented (an average one went for $1,050 a night, which kind of kills the "relatable everyday American" vibe most hometown dates are going for), or at best belong to a wealthy relative. Those fancy home-cooked meals often aren't home-cooked, either. If mom and dad are lousy in the kitchen or don't want to bother, the show will have it catered.
Remember, The Bachelor is lifestyle porn as much as it is cloying romance. The message is that once you find true love by crushing the dreams of a couple dozen other people, you too will live in a beautiful cookie cutter mansion and never worry about money or time again. Then maybe one day, your children will take their reality show dates to your home. That's the circle of life.
It's standard practice for reality show contestants to be denied access to entertainment, news, and outside contact during filming. There wouldn't be much drama if you could excuse yourself to go play Overwatch whenever you saw a fight coming. The Bachelor recently started allowing contestants to bring books, and Bibles have long been permitted ... so that contestants in spiritual crisis can determine if they're somehow violating the sanctity of marriage by competing with 28 other people for the right to marry a stranger. But everything else, like laptops and phones, is confiscated at the door. The goal is to put the contestants in a bubble. If The Bachelor is all that's in your life, you're going to start taking it way more seriously than you probably should.
This creates practical concerns, even beyond having to dodge Narcos spoilers when you return to civilization. Contestants have responsibilities. They need to arrange for nearly three months of bills, feed pets, and send reminders to their friends and family that they haven't dropped off the face of the Earth. One constant was even reported missing by her mother after going incommunicado for the show, although when the police asked the public for information, everyone soon realized she was just on The Bachelor. For some reason, that has yet to be deemed a crime.
A woman's menstrual cycle has an impact on her emotional state, albeit not nearly to the extent that terrible stand-up comedy routines would have you believe. The Bachelor's producers are well aware of that.
According to a book on how the Bachelor sausage gets made, the show's producers tracked contestants' cycles, and tried to use the information to provoke emotional reactions. Basically, if a woman was at the point in her cycle where she'd tear up at Pixar movies -- even the dumb ones, like Cars 2 -- she would be encouraged/harassed into doing something stupid and regrettable, like declaring her love for the Bachelor on national TV.
It's unclear what they did to exploit the emotions of male contestants on The Bachelorette. Maybe they told them that a woman on Twitter said Halo was dumb right before sticking them in front of the camera. Same results.
Getting on The Bachelor is far more complicated than proving that you're hot and not too ethnic. First, contestants make a video wherein they pitch themselves as a marketable product. Then, if the producers like said video, the real fun begins. During an audition weekend, potential contestants are given a 150-question personality test, which includes stuff like "Do you think you can control things with your mind?" and "Have you ever wanted to kill someone?" After that comes a one-on-one with a producer, followed by a rapid-fire Q&A with an army of producers who share one single, dusty soul.
Then you talk to the show's therapist. She gets serious in a hurry, asking if you've ever cheated on someone, if you have a history of mental illness, or if you're an angry drunk. Next it's on to the show's private investigator, who's looking into whether you've ever been arrested, made a sex tape, had a DUI, or done something else scandalous. Finally there's a medical exam, including blood and urine samples, as well as a detailed medical history questionnaire. If you've had an STD, you're out.
If you think that's all to screen out crazy people, you're only sort of right. It's also to screen out those who are too normal. The producers are looking for a window within which you're not unstable, per se, but are a little ... out there.
Think of it this way: If you're borderline suicidal and have never cheated on your partner, those are both red flags by Bachelor standards. The producers want their contestants to be vulnerable and full of juicy stories. So if you've struggled with depression and might break down at a stressful time, but were also once arrested for drunkenly streaking, your odds are pretty promising. Or as one producer explained, if someone involved in picking contestants says, "This chick is going to go fucking nuts," that's not a bad thing.
The contracts the contestants sign are also onerous. You have to accept that you get zero privacy, that you could be lied to, and that you could be subjected to verbal or even physical aggression. You also have to accept that the show may (read: probably will) use your personal history to ridicule and humiliate you on national TV. If you're wondering why anyone would agree to all that, the answer is that most people don't bother reading the contract. As one former contestant pointed out, people who are willing and able to drop everything for six weeks just to play-date a stranger may not be in the greatest place in their lives. If you're going that far already, how bad could the fine print be?
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For more, check out I Was A Contestant On The Worst Reality Show Ever and The 6 Most Pathetic Dating Show Contestants Of All Time.
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